Snow falls across much of the Middle East as worst blizzard in 60 years hits the region
- Police block roads into and out of ancient holy city
- Snowstorm Alexa brings Egypt’s main Mediterranean ports to a standstill
- Temperatures plummet below freezing across Syria, Egypt, Israel, Lebanon
- Concern mounts for plight of two million refugees fleeing Syrian civil war
By Tom Gardner
PUBLISHED:11:19 EST, 13 December 2013
Icy blast: The Western Wall compound in the Old City of Jerusalem, Israel, today was covered with snow as temperatures plunge below zero
The blizzard, which has been named Alexa, forced Jerusalem into lockdown today after more than 50cm of snow was dumped on the region.
The unusual weather system brought travel chaos and disruption to much of the region.
People had to abandon their cars and seek emergency shelter as the snowstorm brought transport to a standstill.
Police set up roadblocks on routes in and out of the ancient city.
Ben Gurion airport near Tel Aviv was shut earlier this morning and Egypt’s main ports on the Mediterranean and the Red Sea remained closed for the third straight day due to bad weather.
Israelis were told over media and public broadcasts today not to enter or leave Jerusalem and some 1,500 people were evacuated from stranded vehicles overnight, said police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld.
Three emergency centers were set up and medics treated 350 people for cold-related symptoms, Rosenfeld said. Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat said he asked the military for assistance.
Snow fun: Young Palestinians throw snowballs at the Jaffa Gate at the Old City of Jerusalem, after the worst blizzards in 60 years swept across the region
Rare snow also fell in Cairo’s suburbs, the port city of Alexandria and a blanket of white covered St. Catherine’s Monastery on Mt. Sinai.
The cold weather was part of a storm, dubbed Alexa, which has been pounding much of Lebanon and parts of northern Syria since Wednesday, pushing temperatures below zero and dumping snow and heavy rains.
The snow has heaped another layer of misery on the already grim existence of many of the more than two million Syrians who have fled the civil war raging in their homeland.
Shock: Stunned Egyptians woke up this morning to find snow on the streets for the first time in more than a century these pictures show Madinaty, 40kms east of Cairo
Chaotic: Vehicles are seen stranded in snow in Jerusalem after transport links ground
to a halt due to heavy snow
TWENTY inches of snow brings the Holy Land to a standstill
The weather even featured in talks between visiting U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who said he was briefed on the emergency measures.
Kerry, a former Massachusetts senator, said the snow made him feel ‘at home’.
‘I have heard of making guests welcome and feeling at home. This is about as far as I’ve ever seen anything go… giving me a New England snowstorm,’ Kerry said as he viewed a snow-covered Old City of Jerusalem with Netanyahu.
Beast of burden: Ice covered stray donkeys stand outside in cold weather in Karlik village of Karacadag region located in Siverek district of Turkey’s Sanliurfa province in Southeastern Anatolia region
In the West Bank and Gaza, U.N. relief teams offered emergency services to the worst-hit communities.
In Gaza, which was experiencing its first snow in a decade, more than 500 people were evacuated from their homes, according to Hamas spokesman Ihab Ghussein.
Egypt’s state MENA news agency said the country’s two Mediterranean ports near the city of Alexandria and two ports on the Red Sea remained closed for the third day Friday.
The report quoted the head of the Alexandria port authority, Adel Yassin Hammad, as saying the decision was taken to avoid possible accidents in the ports.
Those ice caps are gonna melt any day now. 🙂